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A renowned historian and engineer explores the past, present, and future of America's crumbling infrastructure.
Acclaimed engineer and historian Henry Petroski explores our core infrastructure from both historical and contemporary perspectives, explaining how essential their maintenance is to America's economic health. Petroski reveals the genesis of the many parts of America's highway system--our interstate numbering system, the centerline that divides roads, and such taken-for-granted objects as guardrails, stop signs, and traffic lights--all crucial to our national and local infrastructure.
A compelling work of history, The Road Taken is also an urgent clarion call aimed at American citizens, politicians, and anyone with a vested interest in our economic well-being. Physical infrastructure in the United States is crumbling, and Petroski reveals the complex and challenging interplay between government and industry inherent in major infrastructure improvement. The road we take in the next decade toward rebuilding our aging infrastructure will in large part determine our future national prosperity.
Public infrastructure is often deemed interesting only to policy wonks, but Petroski (The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance), a professor of history and civil engineering at Duke University, proves that he can make it accessible and fascinating for a wider readership. His goal is to create a more informed electorate that will weigh in with political leaders about long-standing safety issues posed by obsolete and decrepit infrastructure. But the book is more than a laundry list of trouble spots; Petroski offers historical context for today's challenges, including the debate over whether the federal government or the states should pick up the tab for repair work and new construction. The inclusion of colorful details (Illinois courts once deemed stop signs for city streets a "violation of the right of individuals to cross streets") prevents the material from coming across as dry. Petroski doesn't underplay the difficult of making progress in the face of Washington gridlock, but he makes the cost of inaction clear, credibly estimating that "the nation's degrading infrastructure will cost American households... in excess of $150 trillion" over the next three decades. His book may well move readers to lobby their elected officials.